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CA5 on Honduras, Gangs, Persecution: Morales Lopez v. Garland

March 20, 2021 (2 min read)

orales Lopez v. Garland (unpub.)

"[W]e agree with her overarching point: the IJ and the BIA improperly determined that Morales Lopez did not make a sufficient showing of past persecution and a well-founded fear of future persecution. ... Morales Lopez argues that the IJ did not consider all relevant incidents of harm. We agree. ... [T]he IJ erred by failing to meaningfully consider all the relevant substantial evidence in support of Morales Lopez’s past persecution claim. ... Morales Lopez argues that the relevant substantial evidence, when considered together, compels a finding of past persecution. We agree. ... A reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to find that Morales Lopez had been persecuted based on Los Vatos Locos’ murdering Morales Lopez’s husband after the gang threatened and harassed him over the span of two years; the multiple and varied menacing threats of harm against Morales Lopez and her family by Los Vatos Locos members following Mejia Murillo’s death, including an explicit death threat to Morales Lopez; the brutal attack on Morales Lopez’s cousin soon after Morales Lopez sighted a Los Vatos Locos member in her cousin’s neighborhood; and the credited expert testimony that gangs in Honduras such as Los Vatos Locos persistently target and then kill the family members of their victims regardless of gang territorial lines, and that Morales Lopez faces a 75 to 80 percent chance of being put in “serious danger for her life” by Los Vatos Locos if she is deported. ... Ultimately, the relevant substantial evidence—when considered as a whole—compels a finding of past persecution. ...  [T]he IJ speculated that Los Vatos Locos’ motives behind their encounters with Morales Lopez’s family members were based on the general state of violence and civil disorder in Honduras. The IJ improperly negated each encounter for this reason. Cf. id. As a result, it is unclear how Morales Lopez could have proved her claim without direct proof of Los Vatos Locos’ motives. Accordingly, the IJ erred. ... Morales Lopez argues that the relevant substantial evidence compels a well-founded-fear-of-future-persecution finding. We agree. ... Accordingly, the relevant substantial evidence—when considered as a whole—compels a well-founded-fear-of-future-persecution finding. ... For the reasons above, we GRANT, in part, and DENY, in part, the petition; REVERSE the IJ’s order of removal; and REMAND for any further necessary proceedings in accordance with this opinion."

[At 38 pages, this should be published!  Hats way off to TRLA superstars Abby Anna Batko-Taylor, Rebecca Sheff and Susan Leigh Watson! ]